FIRST WE WERE IV by Alexandra Sirowy

I’ve been a fan of Alexandra Sirowy ever since I first saw an ARC of her novel, THE CREEPING. Her newest book, FIRST WE WERE IV, just debuted, and it’s amazing. (Author Jessica Taylor thinks so too.) 

It started for pranks, fun, and forever memories.
A secret society – for the four of us.
The rules: Never lie. Never tell. Love each other.
We made the pledge and danced under the blood moon on the meteorite in the orchard. In the spot we found the dead girl five years earlier. And discovered the ancient drawings way before that.
Nothing could break the four of us apart – I thought.
But then, others wanted in. Our seaside town had secrets. History.
We wanted revenge.
We broke the rules. We lied. We told. We loved each other too much, not enough, and in ways we weren’t supposed to.
Our invention ratcheted out of control.
What started as a secret society, ended as justice. Revenge. Death. Rebellion.

According to your website bio, you’ve “been writing short stories and inventing characters since fifth grade camp in the redwoods.” What first inspired you to put words on paper?

We moved a lot as a family. We moved from California to Rhode Island and back again before I was six, then we moved three more times before I was twelve. In Rhode Island we lived next door to the children’s author and illustrator Christopher Van Allsburg (Jumanji, The Polar Express, etc.). There was always a lot of talk of books in our home and seeing a bonafide children’s author walking his dog around the block made writing feel accessible and possible. I started writing short stories as a way to cope with saying goodbye to friends when we moved. At first these were usually ghost stories, though, not the scary kind. My stories always featured a ghost child and a living child who’d meet, become friends, and live happily ever after. By the time I got to fifth grade camp in the redwoods, I was starting to get a little more creative, including animals and haunted forests in the plot-lines.

What a beautiful way to find solace within unpleasant transitions. And, I love that the opening scene in FIRST WE WERE IV starts after something bad has already happened. How do you think about time in relation to plot? 

Time has an important role in all three of my books – something I really hadn’t considered until you asked this question!  In THE CREEPING, the protagonist doesn’t remember a mysterious and traumatic event from her childhood; recovering those memories and trying to solve the mystery drive the plot. In THE TELLING, the plot is divided between before and after the attack of the protagonist’s step-brother. I use scenes from the past as breadcrumbs for the reader to follow and figure out who the killer is in their seemingly idyllic island-home. And in FIRST WE WERE IV, I start the book with the tragic end, when the secret society the protagonists have invented has become irrevocably out of their control.

Time is as important to my plots as character development, tension, and pacing of the story itself. Time isn’t forgiving – it’s the perfect antagonistic force in thrillers.

Indeed it is. Your novel THE CREEPING takes place in a place similar to where you grew up. In what ways,  if any, did this influence how the setting developed?

All three of my YA thrillers have been set in seemingly perfect, small towns. And yes, I grew up in a similarly privileged, tight-knit community in Northern California. Small towns fascinate me because of the intimacy inhabitants have with each other. You know of people. You think you know them well. But do you really know your neighbors? Imagining crimes and mysterious tragedies in small towns always seems so much more chilling than using a big city. Small towns are supposed to be safe places where nothing bad ever happens. Monsters aren’t supposed to look like me and you.

And yet they do–and sometimes those monsters are the scariest. What are some of your current projects?

I have a few books I’m writing: a YA fantasy that’s murder-y, revenge-y, and so much fun to write; a fourth YA thriller; and an adult suspense novel. I’m so excited that FIRST WE WERE IV was released on July 25th!

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